A paroled convict with a record of multiple weapon, theft and drug convictions was arrested Jan. 10 at Oak Park and River Forest High School. Otis Brown, 48, of the South Side of Chicago, was spotted on the school's third floor by teachers around 2 p.m. When Brown noticed the teachers noticing him, he reportedly acted as though he was performing repair work in the area, which had suffered extensive flood damage from a leaking roof the week before.
"When he spotted them spotting him, he acted like he was fixing something," said Deputy Police Chief Robert Scianna.
However, the area where he was spotted was an academic area that had not been damaged in the flooding, said OPRF Communications Director Kay Foran.
"It just didn't add up," said Foran. When the teachers noticed that Brown wasn't wearing a school pass, they told him to leave the building, then called school security. The 5-foot, 10-inch, 185 pound Brown was quickly arrested by high school Resource Officers without further incident.
According to Scianna, Brown had snuck into the school carrying a tool box, appearing to be one of numerous workmen currently in the school performing repair work on extensive water damage caused by ongoing roof repairs. Police are reportedly still studying school security videotape to determine exactly where Brown entered the school building.
Brown didn't say what he was there for, but among his 10 previous convictions are a 1979 conviction for burglary, 1993, 1994 and 2000 convictions for theft, and a 2003 conviction for retail theft. Brown was paroled last April from the Shawnee Correctional Center were he had been serving an 18 month sentence for that retail theft conviction, as well as a drug charge. He also has two prior felony convictions for possession and/or use of a fire arm.
The incident has triggered some changes in how the presence of workmen in the building is being handled, said Foran.
"Typically, workers are with a foreman or lead crew person," she said. Those persons have been responsible for their crews in the past. Asked if workers are now required to wear some form of special security passes in the wake of the incident, Foran said, "They are now."